This is our year. The four words almost every Liverpool fan has seemingly uttered at some stage in the exciting, promising yet ultimately frustrating last couple of years. The club have however once again come flying out of the blocks, but lessons from previous campaigns must be taken on board in order to yield any form of on-field success this season.
It seems though that after such a hopeful start to the new Premier League journey that already one man, and one man only, has genuinely almost been overlooked and subsequently forgotten about.
Left-back Andy Robertson has virtually gone unnoticed since the big-money arrivals of Alisson, Fabinho and Naby Keita, who have stolen the headlines across Merseyside in recent weeks alongside the heavy spending of the noisy neighbours, yet his impact on the club hasn’t changed. The Scottish international was overlooked for the Man of the Match award in Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, but Robertson, just like the thousands watching on both inside and outside of Anfield, simply won’t mind, as long as those on the pitch continue to perform just as they did on the opening day of the campaign.
The 24-year-old showed off his character and raw talent once again in front of a now-expectant home crowd, proving that he certainly hasn’t lost any of his match fitness despite a lengthy break without World Cup football. Robertson’s display was yet again critical to the Reds’ success at the weekend, with the fullback heavily involved in the opening two goals of the ultimately one-sided affair at Anfield. An effortless, pinpoint delivery found Mohammed Salah, and the Egyptian simply couldn’t miss as his tap-in gave the home side an early lead, while soon after Sadio Mane opened his account for the season when another expert cross from Robertson was met by James Milner at the back post, and the midfielder’s cut-back found the Senegal international, who eased the ball into the net to send the rampant Reds 2-0 up.
Robertson’s performance may not have been a stand-out one, but it was undeniably one that the fans have quickly become accustomed to, from the majority of the starting 11 but particularly from the flying Scotsman. And that should indeed be the case for all players at the club. Any football fan could very easily tell you how standards have dramatically declined at Liverpool Football Club in recent years, but only those who know the club well enough can tell you why.
After years of struggles on and off the field, the Reds now, fortunately, have the right man in charge in the form of Jurgen Klopp, whose system has already worked wonders for players exactly like Robertson, who simply won’t give up, who simply must win the ball for their team at all costs. Robertson knows how hard he must work for his manager and his side in order to avoid the negatives that slowly but surely slipped into too many games last season.
The former Queen’s Park man spent far too long in reserve after his arrival from Hull City, in what must now be regarded as one of Liverpool’s greatest acquisitions in recent years at just £8m, considering former left-back Brad Smith was offloaded to Bournemouth in a deal worth almost twice as much. Yet was Klopp’s somewhat bizarre decision to favour Spaniard Alberto Moreno over his Scottish counterpart in the early stages of the latter’s Liverpool career a foolish one or a stroke of genius? Only the German will know if his now first choice left-back needed that little incentive to kick-start his life at Anfield, but since that moment, there has been no looking back from either end.
The young defender has now fully established himself as a favourite for both club and country, forming a formidable partnership with the colossus that is Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool and with another promising young full back in Celtic’s Kieran Tierney with the Scotland national team. Dundee United may, however, wish to take a certain percentage of credit for Robertson’s development, having worked with the player during the 2013/14 season before his move south of the border to Hull, who also played an equally significant role, particularly in handing the youngster the crucial experience of playing Premier League football.
It is, however, primarily down to both Klopp and Robertson himself, with the left-back epitomising just what it takes to succeed under the German. He has of course been helped massively by those around him. Having Mane just yards ahead is undoubtedly a real joy for Robertson while having the continuous availability of Roberto Firmino through the middle can only work in his favour, yet the presence of van Dijk on the left side of centre defence is perhaps the greatest asset the Scotsman could ask for. The two have the talent and potential to grow into club legends at such an early stage, and are reminiscent of a once impressive Sami Hyypia/John Arne Riise partnership that provided Liverpool fans with confidence and excitement beyond compare, and, worryingly, that has been missing for far too long.
And that is precisely what Klopp has restored to Liverpool Football Club. A new breed of people wanting to succeed. Spending vast amounts of money is avoidable in this current climate, but the fact that Alisson is the club’s best goalkeeper since Pepe Reina, or that Robertson is the best left back since Riise conveys just how far the Reds have come in a small period of time. Naby Keita may well now go and follow the footsteps of Steven Gerrard, a void left by the club legend that many thought may never be filled. But now there is hope around Anfield. A hope that has been missing for quite some time.
One thing that is inevitable though, is that Klopp must succeed. He has spent enough money, enough time and most all enough energy on perfecting this talented squad of players. Having come agonisingly close in his last campaign, this could finally be the season that it all falls into place…